Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Fashion City – Milan

As fun as Florence was with company it was time to move onto Milan. Scruffy and most of the backpackers left the same day as well headed south to Rome while I headed north. Puppy Eyes stayed back to do more napping around Florence and Raphaela continued her search for the elusive new home.

Milan was to be a quick stop and go for me as I heard it was a metropolitan city of shopping. I had to stop to get tickets to the next country and point of entry to Switzerland was Milan. Since I was to stop anywhere I thought I might as well scout the place. Just have to avoid shopping.

Zebra Hostel

Hostel Zebra
I checked into Zebra hostel and into the 14 bed dorm. I mean 10 bed in Florence wasn’t so bad so why not 14. Later that night I would regret my decision as a hoard of girls came into the dorm and proceeded to hit the nightspots only to return late in the morning drunk with a few friends missing.

Apparently without knowing I was in Milan for the weekend where people from nearby towns (within 4 hours train ride or more) would pop down for a weekend getaway just to party hard and hit all the luxurious nightspots. Girls of coz being girls won’t have to spend a fortune in owl life if you have the looks.

Hostel was modern and very clean and one of the cheapest I could find too during a weekend. The hostel was located nicely within walking distance of the city but skirting to the residential neighborhood making cheap food, supermarket, laundry and more lower price stuff to be found. The map was however horrible.

Sightseeing Milan & Extortion    

If you only have one thing to see in Milan it would be Milan Cathedral - Duomo di Milano which is the largest gothic cathedral in Italy. Be careful of the main square around the Duomo thought as many African scammers are out to scam you and extort as much money they can get from you.

Largest Gothic Cathedral in Italy
I walked around the Duomo admiring the complexity of the Gothic Cathedral when I stumble upon the main square where hoards and hoards of tourist were taking photos of the ever beautiful Duomo. Together with the hoards of tourist would be the equal number of African males and countless number of pigeon. There was a scam going on and I was oblivious to it.

One guy approached me and attempted to shove pigeon feed into my hand which I by reflects knock it off his hand and stayed away. He was even so bold to try and put it into my pocket which I knock him again by reflect and gave him a hard stare standing very still but ready to run at any time. The guy backed off looking for new people to harass.
Tourist vs. African Scammer ( 1 – 0 )
Galleria Vittoria Emanuele
I resulted to skip hopping my way along the scattered group of tourist and African touts all the while trying to admire the beauty of the gothic cathedral. It was sad such a pretty place such as these would deter some tourist from going after reading all the bad news of pickpockets and scams.

*New challenger* (African guy) approaches me with a greeting in English. A civilized person and I was in no discrimination greeted him back. Bad move …. I have thus opened the door for a scam.  He asked where I was from and welcomes me to Italy and gave me a big smile. He reaches out to shake my hand …. and I accepted but he would not let go …. Uh oh …. Shit …. He then proceeded to tie a string of many colors those like a wristband around my hand and snip cut off the last bit of string ….

I could not slip the new wristband off without a scissors to my dismay.
“Waka Waka Africa, for good luck”, New challenger said to me with a big grin
He then asked for a small token since he masterfully tied a wristband on my hand. I dig into my pocket feeling the change and took out 1 euro. New challenger pockets the money but asked for more ….
“You have paper ??”, he opened his wallet and show me paper note money of 10 euro
I said no bluffing openly. More of his brothers gathered around me. It was one Asian guy (poor me) against three African guys. They were fairly buff too. I dig into the pocket once more and produced another euro … and said “no more”. Held my ground and stared. I was going to suffer anyway plus this place was full of tourist with even tourist police in sight. They left me smiling while I stared angrily but relieved. Into the Duomo I quickly walked as I knew they would not follow me there.
Tourist vs. African Scammer ( 1 – 1 )
Milan Cathedral - Duomo di Milano

Old Man Sculpture
The Gothic cathedral charm marred by my experience being extorted for money outside was still a sight not to be missed. I would recommend not missing this visit even if you have to carry a whistle and stampede your way there. Angry grandma would be the best weapon.

Inside was a not the usual bright and beautiful cathedral that I was used to seeing. It was dimmed slightly dark with carving and painting of the more realistic nature. Gothic has its charms I suppose and I was glued examining each and every exhibits. One sculpture attracted me the most was the old man but full of vigor.

The cathedral also houses some mummies of the old popes in the style of Europe not Egypt. This was highly fascinating and for one was glad I did not skip Milan entirely and head straight on to Switzerland. The face were covered with mask and bodies heavily draped with ornamental ceremonial clothing. Only the preserved hand and sometimes feet could be seen within the glass coffin.
Mummified Pope
Shopping in Milan

Shop by the Kilogram
Girls would love Milan just for the shopping itself. It is called the city of fashion for a reason. I for one was on a hunt to find a jacket. Wearing three layers of clothing was not going to cut it anymore. Early November winter and I was not prepared. Next destination was Switzerland so I had to gear up for it.

Walking around Milan window shopping you would find that it was indeed an expensive city. Price could be so extravagant that it make no sense sometime. However a little enthusiasm and you will find deals and sometime weird shopping methods. One shop was selling their clothes by the weight.

Huh ?? Did I enter a fish market ? They had prices tag in different racks of cloths all color coded and you pay by putting it on a weighing scale. I couldn’t find my jacket there but by the way people was bulk buying I assume it was cheap enough.

I finally settle for a celio jacket at the price of 80 euros. I would not know if it was a good deal but it was practical enough to last me throughout winter backpacking. I scouted a whole day everywhere for a good jacket and when I finally decided on one I even tried to bargain with the sales attendant which resulted in weird looks. I paid for it in cash which earned me even more weird looks.

3 days in Milan fly by just like that. One day travel, one day shopping, one day sightseeing ….

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